First off, let me say that if you use the search
feature on the home page of this website and
type "Muchnick," probably hundreds of
references throughout legacyofwrestling will
Sam Muchnick was one of the most well liked
promoters in professional wrestling history. He
was also the stability behind the
National Wrestling Alliance between 1948 and
around 1975. The promoter and booking agent
in St. Louis, Muchnick was true to his word, well
spoken, and the guiding light in a world of
scoundrels. He was born on August 22, 1905
in the Ukraine, two months premature. His
name at birth was Jeshua Muchnick.
The Muchnicks ventured to the United States in 1912, entering the country through the
Port of Baltimore. The family came to St. Louis soon thereafter and lived on Franklin
Avenue in the Kerry Patch neighborhood.
Muchnick graduated from St. Louis Central High School on June 9, 1924, and shortly
thereafter, got a job working for the U.S. Postal Service, where he remained until 1926 at
$1,900 a year.
During a trip to the Missouri State Historical Society at Columbia, Missouri in 2005, I
researched the St. Louis Times, the newspaper Muchnick wrote for during the 1920s. I
found a number of his articles on baseball and other sports as early as September 1926,
and it was fascinating to see his name as a newspaper writer. He wrote with a distinct
style and his articles were a lot of fun to read. In addition to baseball, he covered
greyhound racing, boxing, and ultimately, professional wrestling. His July 2, 1930 article
covered Tom Packs' outdoor show that evening at the Battery A headlined by Dick
Daviscourt and Jim Clinstock. Muchnick brought a sincerity to his wrestling coverage,
which must have been one of the reasons why Packs hired him. He covered grappling like
he did baseball, and other sports, with a seriousness that stood out against the biased
sportswriters in other cities, who passive aggressively condemned the "sport" of "pro
Muchnick's straight wrestling coverage definitely boosted Packs' promotional efforts,
adding a major level of legitimacy that St. Louis fans coveted. Professional wrestling was
a sport in St. Louis, and Packs' and Muchnick treated it with the utmost dignity, and didn't
burn the town out with excessive gimmicks, angles, and champions that was hurting the
The amazing professionalism Muchnick brought to wrestling was almost unrivaled in any
city holding grappling matches, and Packs allowed him to thrive within his organization.
Thus, Muchnick learned from the ground up. At this moment, I can draw parallels between
Muchnick and Jim Barnett, the legendary booker and promoter who got the same type of
start for Fred Kohler in Chicago during the late 1940s and early '50s. Neither Muchnick or
Barnett wrestled, but were writers initially, doing publicity for their respective bosses, and
because they were immensely smart, rose up the ladders. Muchnick became a road
agent, as did Barnett, and later worked as a matchmaker. Barnett also became one of the
brightest bookers in the country. Up until this very moment, I hadn't drawn a comparison
between the way Muchnick and Barnett came up in the sport. But it is very similar.
The way Muchnick's mind worked, he was able to see the way Packs did business, and the
ways he'd do things differently if he was in charge. And it was just a matter of time before
he was on his own. The years he spent under Packs gave him the tools to deal with
wrestlers, and the knowledge to promote his own organization.
Muchnick went into the Army Air Force on May 15, 1942.
In March 1943, Muchnick was a corporal in the Army Air Force and stationed in New
Orleans as part of the 15th Base Headquarters & Air Base Squadron. He also had a
brother in the service stationed at Pawling, New York. Muchnick told Jack Pfefer in a letter
dated March 11, 1943 that he was going to be deferred from serive "on account of my
parents and I insisted on going in." He also received a letter from one of Tom Packs'
henchmen, Bill Nelson, who told him that he had two sons in the military, while Muchnick
had to be "dragged in."
The September 19, 1945 issue of the St. Louis Globe Democrat reported that Muchnick
had received his honorable discharge after 40 months in the Army. Among the stations
he'd served: Jefferson Barracks (training), Fort McDowell, Angel Island near San
Francisco, Panama Canal Zone (two years), Camp Shanks, NY, Daniel Field, Augusta,
Georgia, Tinker Field, Oklahoma City, AAF Redistribution Station at Miami Beach, Florida,
Scott Field. His discharge "yesterday" was because the Army was "releasing men 38
years old and over." Muchnick turned 40 on August 22.
In the summer of 1947, he married Helen Wildefong in Galveston, TX, at the home of
As the NWA was growing, Muchnick touted the organization to potential new members in
letters. In a letter to members on October 13, 1949, Muchnick stated that he wanted to
"remind you that we have the finest organization ever in the history of wrestling, or
possibly any other sport. We have gone a long way in a year."
One of the responsibilities of the National Wrestling Alliance President was to visit the
various territories and make sure things were running smoothly. On June 23-25, 1952,
Muchnick went to New York City to visit with Pedro Martinez, Rudy Dusek, Eddie Quinn,
and Joe "Toots" Mondt, who was associated with Martinez. Muchnick stayed at the
Commodore Hotel. From there, on June 26-28, he was going to Chicago, staying at the
Palmer House, and was going to visit with Fred Kohler and Leonard Schwartz. He also
attended the Thesz-O'Connor show.
Usually very passive, Muchnick decided to have some fun with a driver after a close call
between their automobiles in downtown St. Louis. According to The All-Sports News
(11/4/1953), Muchnick pulled up next to the other driver and had some words for him.
The other driver got out of the vehicle ready to confront Muchnick, but Sam instead
pushed Killer Kowalski out of the vehicle and told the wrestler to take care of business for
him. The driver looked the 6'6" behemoth up and down, then made his quick getaway
while Muchnick and others who had been watching, laughed hysterically.
Muchnick was interviewed by Stanley E. Disney of the Department of Justice on June
22-23, 1955 at Muchnick's office at the Claridge Hotel in St. Louis. NWA attorney Harry
Soffer was present, as was Vic Holbrook, who Disney stated was a "wrestler and assistant
to Mr. Muchnick," but for only "part of the interview." In summary, Disney believed that
Muchnick cooperated "as well as could be expected," providing access to all his files, and
felt that the files had not been stripped in advance. Disney wrote in his memorandum to
James M. McGrath on June 29, 1955 that "the large number of incriminating papers
wwhich were found, however, indicates that no concerted or at least no intelligent effort
was made to strip the files." Disney told Muchnick and Soffer that any papers he obtained
could be used against the Alliance down the road.
Disney informed Muchnick that the "Division might proceed by civil action, by criminal
action, or by both." Soffer asked him if there would be any way to settle the matter without
a decree and Disney told them that it was up to "Washington." Disney was going to
"strongly recommend that any settlement made be incorporated into a decree."
Muchnick wanted to avoid a court case that would reveal that a majority of professional
wrestling matches were fixed, as mentioned in the June 29, 1955 memo written by Disney.
A few days later, on July 3, 1955, Muchnick sent a four page letter to Disney in Los
Angeles, and he wrote: "For the past 23 years, barring my time in service, wrestling has
been my life and I wouldn't want to see it injured if at all possible. Thousands of people
are making a living out of wrestling and millions are enjoying it either in person or via
television. Therefore the acts of a few individuals should not be misconstrued as the acts
of an organization which was formed to do good for the game."
In an August 19, 1955 letter to the Justice Department, Muchnick claimed that he invested
$13,000 from the time of his Army discharge in 1945 until after the formation of the NWA,
and began drawing good houses as a promoter in St. Louis.
In 1958, Muchnick formed the St. Louis Wrestling Club and started Wrestling at the Chase
Muchnick, in a letter to Jack Pfefer on November 4, 1959, stated that he had been
recovering from the removal of a tumor on his left thigh on October 14.
January 1, 1982 was proclaimed "Sam Muchnick Day" by St. Louis Mayor Vincent
In December 1992, Muchnick was a member of the first class of the St. Louis Jewish
Sports Hall of Fame along with Stan London, Alfred Londe, Harry Kessler, Marty Hogan,
Mary Gail Dalton, Mac Brown, and Isadore Beilenson.
The legendary Sam Muchnick passed away on Wednesday, December 30, 1998 at St.
John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis. He was 93 years of age. His obituary ran in the
St. Louis Post Dispatch on December 31, 1998.
Muchnick was unlike many of his fellow wrestling promoters. Whereas many of his peers
put themselves and their own needs first, Sam always felt his customers were number one.
He wanted to take care of his patrons, and if they bought a ticket, he wanted to give them
the show they paid for. That meant any wrestler who no showed one of his events wasn't
going to appear again - unless they had a very good reason for their absence. He wasn't
in it only for the money or to put himself on a pedestal. It wasn't about him, it was about
presenting a show and creating a legion of loyal followers who respected what he was
doing. He was honest, and that quality alone was extremely rare in pro wrestling.
Without Sam Muchnick, the National Wrestling Alliance would never have achieved the
success that it achieved, plain and simple. He took the organization and its mission as the
force behind pro wrestling very seriously.
Muchnick was known for giving the wrestlers exactly the pay they were owed, down to the
very penny. This was also unusual, and wrestlers respected him probably more than any
other single promoter in the business. Wrestlers wanted to appear for Muchnick and
would come from around the world to participate in one of his programs.
Dick and Pauline Esser were Muchnick's ticket agents for 40 years at Adams Hat Store
and in the Arcade Building.
Every Monday, Muchnick had lunch at Maggie O'Brien's with the members of the 1-2-3
Club, a group of St. Louis sports figures comprised of founders Bob Burnes, Bill Fairbairn,
and Leo Ward (and others), formed in 1946. He had lunch at English's Bar and
Restaurant in Belleville every Friday between 1964 and at least 1995.
The 1-2-3 Club would often have high-profile guests join them for lunch, including athletes
and sports representatives from across the athletic spectrum. If a member cursed, they'd
have to pay a quarter, and if a guest used a profile word, it was $50. Muchnick's guest
one time, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch (8/4/1996) was famous women's golfing
legend, Babe Didrickson Zaharias. She ultimately cost Muchnick $12 because she cursed
Sam Muchnick Family Genealogy:
Saul Muchnick - Born in 1872 in the Ukraine
Rebecca "Bela" Muchnick - Born on August 5, 1883 in the Ukraine.
Rebecca danced for Czar Nicholas II, the final Romanov ruler of Russia.
Saul Muchnick arrived in the United States in 1898, according to the 1930 U.S. Federal
Saul and Rebecca married in 1904, according to the 1930 Census, when Rebecca was
18. They lived in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1904 or 1905, Saul and Rebecca returned to the Ukraine to visit family.
Harry Muchnick was born around 1913 in St. Louis.
Simon Muchnick, third son of Saul and Rebecca, was born on March 18, 1918 in St. Louis.
Sam married Helen on June 30, 1947.
*Thanks to Barbara Muchnick Summers for a correction to the above information.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Sam Muchnick Wrestling History